In Response to SB0899/HB1017, the Sierra Club is Putting Together a Team of Lawyers and Water Quality Experts to Challenge Impacts from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations
As amended, SB899/HB1017 would would eliminate the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s (TDEC’s) Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) State Permits program. This program currently helps ensure that lagoons of animal manure and other wastes are managed so there is no pollution released to nearby streams. TDEC currently permits 280 CAFOs This bill would reduce the number of supervised facilities with a permit to about 15. (TDEC Talking Points)
“As it is, there are many ways around the program, but eliminating it brings Tennessee closer to what North Carolina has — a lot of CAFOs that make some counties stink so bad you can barely drive through them because the rank odor of animal waste fills the car. This short term business gain leaves damaged land and water pollution for others to pay for in the long term,” said Scott Banbury, Conservation Program Coordinator of the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club. “The results would likely be a huge increase in animal waste pollution in streams across the state, impacting fishing, recreation and water treatment costs downstream.”
Operators would still be subject to enforcement under the Tennessee Water Quality Act and the federal Clean Water Act. Without the current legal “shield” of a State Operating Permit, operators would be subject to water pollution violations lawsuits and agency enforcement from complaints made by citizens downstream, and lawsuits for nuisance and trespass.
John McFadden, CEO of Tennessee Environmental Council and a freshwater biologist said, “If this bill passes, the attorneys will have a hay day with the CAFO operators. These facilities are huge sources of pollution in our rural communities. The CAFOs, while a part of our agricultural system, need to be permitted by TDEC to protect our communities and quality of life.”
Sierra Club has joined with seasoned water quality lawyer, Elizabeth Murphy, who will lead a team of other lawyers and water quality experts that would offer legal assistance to property owners downstream from polluting CAFO facilities. Sierra Club and partner organizations across the state, including Tennessee Environmental Council, Clean Water Expected in East Tennessee, Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association, and Sustainable & Equitable Agricultural Development (SEAD) would provide water monitoring expertise to support complaints under the Tennessee Water Quality Act and the federal Clean Water Act.
“As paddlers we experience up close and personal the effects of noxious water pollution; CAFO waste is some of the nastiest stuff you ever see or smell in a stream,” said Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association Board Member, Don Safer.
For a list of Tennessee Legislators and how to contact them, CLICK HERE.
Thank you for contacting your Legislators and voicing your support for continued enforcement of water quality in our beautiful state!